Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. The life expectancy of a person with ALS averages 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis. ALS can strike anyone, and presently there is no known cause or cure.
Hal was one of the biggest defenders and supporters of Bitcoin from the earliest days. He rose to the defense of the still incubating technology against fellow cryptologists who were convinced it would never work. Hal held the distinction of getting the first bitcoins ever transferred to anybody as a test from Satoshi himself.
He was diagnosed with ALS in August 2009 and fought for years to continue to do what he loved: write code. From one of his last posts on the bitcointalk forums, he wrote, "Today, I am essentially paralyzed. I am fed through a tube, and my breathing is assisted through another tube. I operate the computer using a commercial eyetracker system. It also has a speech synthesizer, so this is my voice now. I spend all day in my power wheelchair. I worked up an interface using an arduino so that I can adjust my wheelchair's position using my eyes. It has been an adjustment, but my life is not too bad. I can still read, listen to music, and watch TV and movies. I recently discovered that I can even write code. It's very slow, probably 50 times slower than I was before."
Hal's dedication to his craft will always be an inspiration to people that value freedom, privacy, and sovereignty.